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Raley's $2 organic chicken, 10 cent organic fennel at Giovanni's & other finds

Can't say if this happens at all Raley's / Nob Hill markets, but I was looking at the meat and there were half chickens for $1 - $1.25. A good enough deal and then II learned from the manager of the meat department that they were organic.

I asked about the price because they looked pristine to me. The manager said that every day at 6am they put out packages of chicken that are close to the sell date. He said he'd rather mark them down drastically than throw them away. They made excellent chicken soup and I have lots of breasts and legs in the freezer that I cut off and didn't use for soup.

It is not always whole chicken or organic. It could be breasts legs or other parts. It could be other meats too. There were three nice turkey drumsticks for $1.35 yesterday.

If it doesn't have a "today's special' label, it has a $1 off label. I got a one pound nice sirloin steak that was on sale for $2.

Some perfect ... perfect ... and delicious trout fillets were about $2.25.

Which went very nicely with the 10 cent fennel I bought at Giovanni's in El Cerrito near Target. This store has produce bins in the front of the store that has their deeply discounted specials.

I also picked up a head of organic iceberg lettuce and two heads of colored cauliflower (one green, one gold) for 79 cents. All excellent quality. In the past they have had tomatoes for 25 cents a pound.

Also worth mentioning is that at exactly 6pm daily, the Bread Garden in Berkely has 2 for 1 bread. I picked up a beautiful rye and honey whole wheat for $3.50 ... that's $1.75 each for a quality loaf of bread baked that day ... can't even buy Wonderbread for that price at a grocery market.

Just another reminder that Citizen Cake marks down the bread after 5, IIRC.

Forgot to mention, so no link, at the El Cerrito Saturday Farmers Market, the fish vendor ... IIRC ... Hudson Fish ... was selling the heads and tails of their $$$ wild salmon and other fish for $1 lb. It created quite a stir with people snatching them up for fish stew I imagine. There was all the stuff leftover from filleting the fish and there was really quite a lot of fish meat in the bags.

Any other deals out there?

Giovanni's Produce & Grocery
1600 Liberty St, El Cerrito, CA 94530

3360 San Pablo Dam Rd, El Sobrante, CA 94803

Bread Garden
2912 Domingo Ave, Berkeley, CA 94705

Citizen Cake
399 Grove Street, San Francisco, CA 94102

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  1. Great tips. Are you still trying to feed yourself on the $21/week food stamp allotment?

    11 Replies
    1. re: Ruth Lafler

      Don't you know it. I haven't seriously been near a meat counter in years.

      Yeah, I started my month of $3 meals on Saturday.

      I started this to prove you could eat like a Chowhound on $3 a day and also that it is possible to eat on that budget at Ferry Plaza ... that will be week three.

      But to my absolute astonishment I learned not only that I can cook ... ok throw together semi-interesting meals ... all those years of eating at upscale joints pays off in terms of ideas ... but I'm eating better than I have in a long time. I KNOW you have so much more class than to tell me you told me so.

      I ... made ... salsa fresca. This might not astound anyone, but it killed me that I made a great one ... and it was easy.

      So the other thing about this is that I don't REALLY cook. In the past I relied on stellar ingrediants, simply prepared. So I'm still putting together cool stuff but in zilch amount of time and using for the most part a microwave and stove top.

      Some of what I had so far this week ...

      - French toast with warm Santa Rosa plum/cinnamon/honey topping. Fresh anise tea with honey.

      - Roasted chicken leg, garlic sautéed radish and radish Greens, ½ Mexican corn cob (mayo & chili), Glass of red wine with square of organic chocolate.

      - Trout with fennel, salad (fennel, radish, parsley, celery, vinaigrette), ½ corn on the cob with fennel butter, glass of white wine, home-made berry nectarine gelatin

      - Chipotle meat balls, jalapeno green & gold cauliflower ‘potato’ salad, 2 tortillas, Lettuce, cucumber, radish, tomato salad with cilantro croutons. Vinaigrette. White peach crisp with oatmeal & brown sugar topping.

      - Steak tacos with cilantro and salsa fresca, Chipotle / Lime / Garlic Gold and Green Cauliflower , orange with lime and chile.

      And out of a monthly budget I still have about $40 left ... and the freezer is full.

      I tell you that trout was really fine. I'm repeating that tommorow night. Both the cauliflower salads were killer good and will become something I make from now on and are even good enough to bring to events like pot lucks or picnics.

      BT|W, you were right about the Seeds oif Change chocolate. Grocery Outlet had bars on sale for $1.49. It was ok, but not something I'd buy again.

      1. re: rworange

        Check out the bargain bin at the back of Berkeley Bowl's produce section.

        1. re: Robert Lauriston

          That reminds me. Food Barn in San Pablo has an outstanding discout corner in their produce section. I have yet to see anything bad there. About a dozen summer squash for $1. They had beautiful cantelopes for $1 each.

          A warning, Grocery Outlet has a bargain bin. You know, the one thing this place doesn't do well is produce ... and then to have that discounted ... it is better ot starve.

          $#$)!)(#, I forgot to add the link again for Place.

          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            Yeah, there are sometimes some real bargains at the back of the Bowl. I remember once buying a bag with four large artichokes for $1. The leaves were getting moldy, but for $1, I threw the leaves away, trimmed and sliced up the hearts, and sauteed them with garlic and butter. It felt so luxurious to be eating a big plate of pure artichoke heart!

            RW, I'm glad you're realizing you aren't as hopeless in the kitchen as you thought you were. I seem to remember you once claimed that for a single person, cooking at home didn't save any money over eating out; as someone who knows that her food expenditures go down when she cooks more, I respectfully disagreed. I always knew you could cook -- it's about 90 percent following directions, which any reasonably intelligent person should be able to do -- and as you've discovered, about 5 percent having a good feel for what ingredients taste like and go well together, and unless you want to be a gourmet chef or do fine pastry, only about 5 percent technique.

            Anyway, your meals sound really fabulous. As you've discovered, a couple of pennies worth of herbs, spices and condiments (including citrus juices) can make even the most plebian foods "gourmet." It would be really cool if when you're done, you could put together your menus and some recipes.

            1. re: Ruth Lafler

              Yeah, I plan to post weekly and at the end of the month to post exactly what I bought and how much it cost.

              The thing about the Food Barn discounts is that none of the stuff even looks remotely bad. It is not a matter of trimming.

              Not everything is wonderful. I didn't do a good job with the steak tacos and the fennel tea needed more fennel and more steeping. Doing a 'crisp' in a microwave ... I wouldn't served that to anyone, but it was good to me. However, all of that is just practice. I don't have any real talent. It took me 5 Thanksgivings to finally perfect a turkey.

              I was just screwing around about eating out being as cheap as eating in-house ... although for some things it is. Couldn't put together a pizza with the same quality as Nizza La Bella. I'm not even looking at Indian recipes because ... it gives me the vapors to think of trying that. Some stuff yes. Some stuff no.

              1. re: rworange

                True. I don't bother with anything resembling authentic East, Southeast or South Asian food at home -- the investment in spices, condiments, etc. is rather prohibitive, and the techniques are unfamiliar. I can slave away and spend a ton of money and not come up with anything half as good as a cheap restaurant version. Plus I end up with a bunch of little jars with one tablespoon out of them that then take up permanent residence in my pantry or fridge. I don't do yeast dough, because I've never -- in going on 40 years of cooking -- had any decent results. I think my hands must have some natural anti-yeast properties, because even prepared doughs never come out right.

                On the other hand, give me some pasta and access to a pantry and I can turn out something that ranges from decent to excellent every time. Of course the last time I made "pasta from what I have on hand," it really helped that I had fresh Meyer lemon pasta, fresh ricotta, lemon quark and artichoke tapanade in the fridge <vbg>. The huge jar of artichoke tapanade I bought at Costco has been one of the most useful things in my kitchen since I bought it several months ago: a spoonful will dress-up almost anything.

                Don't you have a toaster oven? Crisps would be much better in a toaster oven than a microwave (or you can cook them in the microwave and brown the top in the toaster oven).

                1. re: rworange

                  Wow... awesome post. can't wait to get the recipes.

                  1. re: maoliu

                    Keep in mind the recipes are simple and are more of looking at what you have and seeing what pairs nicely and how to get there in the easiest way. I'm a slug in the kitchen.

                    I hope though others will post on this thread other bargains. I remember from the past that Cala Foods and Andronicos had bargain bins in the back of the store. Usually nothing that great, but sometimes good stuff.

                    Timing is sometimes important ... the bread at 5pm. Even in grocery stores like Berkeley Bowl, you have to hit the bargain bins on the right day and the right time. In case of Raley's, getting there earlier will get the best selection.

                    Some farmers markets, on the other hand, it is best to get there at the end to pick up markdowns.

                    So if anyone has ideas, again, appreciated.

                    Ruth, I gave away my beloved 3-in-one toaster oven to someone who had a need for it. So I'm stuck with a microwave, stove and unreliable oven.

                    Yes, the big consideration in unfamiliar cuisines like Indian are techniques are unfamiliar and the initial investment in spices. Even though small quantities can be bought in bulk, as you mentioned, there are all those annoying liitle leftover spices ... which CAN be thrown into mayo and create a dip ... light goes on for my raw cauliflower ... pairing with mayo dip that uses the unloved Mexican ground chilis I have.

                    I'm also not doing stricktly food stamp dining. I don't know what the exact rules are and I like a glass of wine with dinner. However, 90 percent of what I'm cooking would fall into what I guess are those parameters. Alot of what I buy i see "WIC" approved. Farmers markets take WIC from my understanding. Grocery Outlet obviously loves WIC ... and I love Grocery Outlet.

                  2. re: Ruth Lafler

                    I happened to go to Berkeley Bowl this morning right when they opened and noticed everyone was huddled around the bargain bin. Before today, I never noticed the bargain bin probably because there never was anything good in it. however, this morning there were boxes of english cucumber, older orange peppers, huge bags of mushrooms, mangoes, squash, artichokes and tons of bananas. People were scrambling to get at it all. The prices were really good but I suppose you would have to know what to buy as some of the items (esp the mangoes) looked really bad. The squash and artichokes looked quite good, as did the mushrooms strangely enough.

                    1. re: choctastic

                      Yeah, it always helps to know the day & time to hit the bargain counters. Sounds like it is mornings for BB.

            2. Thanks for the tip. Not near a Raley's but it's nice to hear the butcher say he'd rather reduce the price then toss it. It's a crime how much food can be wasted.

              1. Just out of curiosity, how much time are you spending shopping and preparing meals and how many miles are you driving to find your cheap food?

                1 Reply
                1. re: chocolatetartguy

                  That was a BIG consideration. You have no clue about how little patience I have in the kitchen. Watching French toast fry was enough to make me seriously consider finishing off the whole month's wine allotment.

                  So far it has taken me 1 and 1/2 days. I spent Saturday shopping, packaging stuff to freeze, cooking soup (kill me ... that was the most time consuming and again I was eyeing the box of wine ... I take NO pleasure in cooking). However, I have 10 servings of chicken soup and 3 cups of stock just frozen and waiting to be eaten.

                  I did two day's of French toast at once and two days for hot fruit toppings. So on Sunday all I did was plop the nectarine/brown sugar/cinnamon topping on the French toast and microwaved it for 1 minute.

                  Friday, I went to Bread Garden and have not only all the bread I will need this month, but also probably next month.

                  I went to Raley's Saturday at 8 am. Drove to the El Cerrito's Farmers market a 9 am. On the drive home, I drove by Giovanni's which is on my way home to scope out the bargain bins. If there wasn't anything interesting, I would have just drove by and not stopped.

                  I dropped the groceries at home. Went to Grocery Outlet. On my drive up there, a mercado was selling oranges 3 lbs for $1, so I stopped. It is also the place that makes the great house-made tortillas ... 2 dozen for 60 cents. Picked up my Grocery Outlet stash.

                  Went home and packaged and cooked.

                  On Sunday I went to the Richmond Flea Market, but that was just for fun and I didn't buy much but a few stone fruit. To me that doesn't count since my focus ther was the Flea Market and not the food which was a bonus.

                  Then I spent 1/2 day writing up menu plans for the next two weeks, given the ingrediants ... SO I DON"T HAVE TO THINK ABOUT THIS UNTIL WEEK THREE !!

                  For the next two weeks, at most I need to pick up some fruit and lettuce. Maybe an hour a week, at most. Ferry Plaza will be my next expenditure in time ... and for me that is just pure entertainmet.

                  I will keep an eye out for deals. If something is great in a grocery ad, I'll stop by. If I'm driving somewhere and see a sign on a mercado with a great deal, I'll stop.

                  Part of the thing is gaining expertise in the markets close by. I spent the last two years in the immediate area finding out what all those little markets sold ... who did what best ... who had the best prices. My time in the Bay Area for the last few decades, I had a familiariy with the big and small farmers markets and major stores like Monterray Market, Berkeley Bowl, Milk Pail, etc. etc.

                  It never hurts to walk into a nearby market when time permits and look around. Almost every place has something wonderful to keep in mind for the future.

                  I'm seeing how the budget holds up. If I do well at Ferry Plaza, I'll stop by the Cheeseboard on the way home to indulge in a cheese course of samples and buy a small piece of cheese for home. That would kind of amuse me. Maybe I should scope out Charles Chocolates in between FP and CB. I hear they are generous on samples and I could buy a small piece as a splurge.

                  If fate spits on me and there is a major power outage and everything in the freezer or stored in glass jars in the fridge goes ... watch for headlines about a woman going beserk.

                2. Fishheads have 2 cheeks each. They are pretty easy to remove from the head and are very tasty chunks of meat. They are available at all the farmer's markets including ferry plaza.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: wally

                    I've often wondered when I see halibut cheeks -- does a halibut have two cheeks?

                    1. re: Ruth Lafler

                      I have never seen a halibut head for sale. Halibut cheeks are sold at fish stores. I think that after they go through the notochord flexion, that they still have all the muscles, they just rotate.

                      1. re: wally

                        I got a halibut head at the Whole Foods in Palo Alto once. It wasn't set out for sale, I just asked the guy at the fish counter if they had any heads.

                  2. At many farmer's markets, at the end of the market stuff is marked way down.

                    1. Long's Drug stores have large eggs for about $1.10/dozen every day. Industrial eggs for sure, but a good source of protein, and useful for baking, binding meatloaf, egg flower soup, etc. Ask at the supermarket if there's any mark-down on banana "singles", some will cut the price in half. Our local Nob Hill bags the banana singles and ripe ones, and prices them at 20-25¢/lb. Shop around for no-name ramen, sometimes as low as 20/$1. You can use the noodles for a quick meal, toss the soup packet and substitute some of your fish stock or leftovers.

                      At 4:30pm M-F, Downtown Bakery in Healdsburg marks down 50% on most items. It's a good time to stock the freezer.

                      16 Replies
                      1. re: Melanie Wong

                        Thanks. I wasn't sure of the Downtown Bakery mark-down hours.

                        I have to re-look at bananas. For a while, the markdowns weren't that great.

                        In another post, someone mentioned Entertainment Books and groceries which I never knew about ... sorry poster, I forgot your handle or the post I pulled this from but thanks ...

                        "Here in Northern California, I shop regularly with coupons and at the farmers markets. I save a bundle with my coupons which are $5.00 off every $50 in groceries from my high end market (like a Whole Foods) and $5.00 off of every $25 in groceries from my Raley's/ Bel Air. These monthly coupons come in my Entertainment Book/ Gold C and more than pay for the $12 cost of the coupon book which includes a year's worth of coupons."

                        1. re: rworange

                          That's a good tip from "dimsumgirl", http://www.chowhound.com/topics/42087... .

                          Markdowns on bananas means banana bread for breakfast and one for the freezer.

                          I'll mention that down in Salinas, my parents receive a huge amount of grocery store circulars with the week's specials every Tuesday. My mom studies them carefully to plan the week's protein and the rest falls in place depending on which stores have the best meat buys. Here in SF, I don't receive any store ads in the mail so don't have the same sales information readily available to me.

                          Downtown Bakery & Creamery
                          308 Center St, Healdsburg, CA 95448

                          1. re: Melanie Wong

                            Yeah, I get ads on Tuesday in San Pablo too. One thing to keep in mind is most big grocery stores have websites where they list their weekly specials. You can also sign up for many weekly email circulars from those markets about what is on sale. A few, sometimes have email discounts with those ... I forget which though. I never sign up for the email stuff because I get the paper ads.

                            Also, you can ask to be put on mailing lists to have the circulars mailed to you. When I was living off the double coupons at Cala Foods I had those mailed to me. Some markets, like Cala, Walgreens and Longs, also have in-store coupons in the circulars ... especially at Walgreens and Longs there can be some great savings.

                            Thanks for giving dimsumgirl the credit she deserves.

                            1. re: rworange

                              Wouldn't you know it, for some reason, I rec'd a bunch of grocery store promotions in the mail this week.

                              Bought a purple bag of banana singles this week at Nob Hill for 29¢/lb. The bag had 12 bananas in it weighing 4.71 lbs., and was a mix of ripe and not so ripe, so can be consumed over a longer stretch.

                        2. re: Melanie Wong

                          Melanie and rworange, the same Entertainment Book has coupons for $5.00 off at Long's Drug stores. You have to spend $25 in order to be able to apply the $5.00 coupon but that's 20%!! And you can apply it to items that are already on sale as well. The coupon is not restricted to any particular area so it can be used at any Long's Drug store; check with anyone who has an EB to find out if they have coupons they don't need.

                          1. re: dimsumgirl

                            And the same coupon is also in the cheaper Gold C ($12.00) book, too, making the Gold C book an even better buy!

                          2. re: Melanie Wong

                            Trader Joe's has eggs for 99 cents a dozen. Long's, though, has those really cheap spices in plastic bottles.

                            BTW, I ended up having to run down to Nob Hill for some flour bright and early yesterday morning and bought organic flour from their bulk bins. This reminded me that although bulk goods aren't necessarily cheaper than pre-packed, you only have to buy as much as you need, which when you have a limited amount to spend on a weekly basis, helps meet the budget. One problem with people who have very small amounts of money coming in is that buying in quantity, while it saves money in the long run, uses up too much of the resources on hand, so they can't take advantage of some of the savings, because they don't have enough to spend the money up front.

                            Spices are one thing it's always better to buy in bulk, though, since even an ounce of most spices will last a long time. The Food Mill is a great place to go for bulk spices, as well as flour, and even things like yeast and baking soda. Bulk cereal can be a lot cheaper than packaged cereal.

                            Ethnic markets are also great for spices -- there's an Indian market on University -- I think it's Bombay Spice House -- that has a huge selection of bulk spices, and other bulk goods as well. They even have organic spices. Mexican markets have cheap packaged spices; in fact, if your supermarket has an good-sized "ethnic" section, they might have them there as well. I'm always amused that at my nearby Albertson's -- which has a huge Mexican food section -- you can pay $4 for a jar of Spice Islands oregano, or you can walk into the next aisle and buy a packet of Mexican brand for 69 cents. Same with other foods -- I had a recipe that called for 7 ounces of canned pimento. Pimento in the "regular" section was $1.29 for four ounces (so I would have needed two); in the Mexican section they had 7 ounce cans for 99 cents. The prices at the Mi Pueblo Food Center are very good: I apparently live within their marketing area, so I get their flyers on Tuesday along with the Safeway, Albertson's, Nob Hill, etc. and their sales are even better.

                            In my poorer days I read the sale flyers religiously. There are often some very good deals if you're organized enough to read them in advance and plan a menu around what's on sale.

                            Mi Pueblo Food Center
                            1630 High St, Oakland, CA 94601

                            Food Mill
                            3033 MacArthur Blvd, Oakland, CA 94602

                            Bombay Spice House
                            1036 University Ave, Berkeley, CA 94710

                            Trader Joe's
                            South Shore Center W, Alameda, CA 94501

                            1. re: Ruth Lafler

                              I don't know if i mentioned it here or another post, but pasta is WAAAY cheaper in the Mexican section of the market. Small elbow macaroni is 31 cents for 6 oz, I think. It was on sale once 5 for $1. Tasted like regular elbow mac to me.

                              The other thing is that some of the Mexican food uses sugar instead of HFCS.

                              I'll have to give Food Mill a look. Thanks

                              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                Thanks for the reminder at TJ's eggs. I have bought them once at the Sunnyvale location but hadn't spotted them again anywhere else. They were a little smaller than the Foster Farms "large" at Long's, which are on the big end of "large", and had thinner, more porous shells.

                                Most of our macaroni comes from Grocery Outlet, as long as its made with durum. Since it mostly goes in soup, macaroni salad, or mac and cheese, I'm not as particular about brand for macaroni.

                                1. re: Melanie Wong

                                  Have you ever tried the Mexican macaroni found in that section of the supermarket? It is usually semolina though. It runs 20 - 40 cents for 7 ounces.

                                  BTW, when scoping out the Mexican spices at Raley's, my attention was always focused on the chili. Thanks to Ruth's suggestion I last week I looked and she is right. The same spices selling for 5 bucks by Schilling are going for 89 cents a large bag in the Mexican section.

                                  1. re: rworange

                                    Can't say i've looked at Mexican pasta. The macaroni at Grocery Outlet is about 50 to 60¢ per pound, often in two-pound bags.

                                    1. re: Melanie Wong

                                      Pastas were $.69 per lb at Trader Joe's. I'm not sure I saw elbows, though. Also, I was really surprised to find cage free large brown eggs at Whole Food for $1.99, Better than TJ's, same price. Go figure.

                                2. re: Ruth Lafler

                                  The spice shop called Milan (I forget the full name) whose entrance is about 20 feet off University on a side street on the south side of University, within a block or two of BSH, actually has a significantly bigger spice selection and prices that are at least comprable (I think they're cheaper,but I don't remember specifics).

                                  1. re: David Farris

                                    That description sounds like the place I was thinking of -- it's one of those places where the entrance doesn't look like much, but the inside is quite large and well-stocked.

                                    Milan International
                                    990 University Ave, Berkeley, CA 94710

                                    1. re: David Farris

                                      Milan's got the biggest spice selection of any of the Indian grocers in the area.

                                      Berkeley Bowl sells loose spices by the ounce. Prices are good and turnover is high, so they're fresh.

                                      1. re: David Farris

                                        I only shop for spices at Milan and although I don't remember the exact numbers, most of the main spices I use (turmeric, cayenne, coriander, cumin, cardamom, etc) are around $2 a pound. I don't cook enough to buy the prepackaged and just go for the bins and it never fails to amaze me how my spice totals are almost always under a dollar each.

                                  2. Slightly inspired by this post (although not enough to stay home for dinner), I went to Alemany yesterday without going to the bank first. I had $27 and thought I'd see what I could get. The answer: three full bags.

                                    Alemany is a fine place for stocking up, especially if you go at 1 p.m. And you can definitely bargain when people want to go home, or at least get an extra apple thrown in.

                                    Picked up a bag of ripe early girls for $1 and some cherry tomatoes for $1 a pound. Got organic stone fruit for $1.25 a pound, corn 3 for $1, ginger A apples, ugly shiitakes, and fresh peas.

                                    I picked up a dozen spray roses for $2.50. Not all perfect, but they smell like roses. The last batch lasted a week.

                                    Blew $6 on a pound of organic pistachios. I was offered a flat of strawberries for $5. I only had $2 by that time, so they gave me two baskets. (I gave one to a friend).

                                    Berkeley Bowl's bargain bin is replenished all the time. Taking RW's advice, just ask the people who work there when the best time to come is.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: Windy

                                      MOM's bargain bin has cantaloupes, 3 for a buck. ripe and quite good

                                    2. I am coming in very, very late to this discussion, but one place I haven't seen mentioned is Monterey Market in Berkeley. Especially the outside. I always got extremely good deals on produce there, and some of it was exemplary. Sometimes they get a really good deal from the farmers with whom they work, and they put that produce out as a special. I have often gone there and gotten several stuffed bags of really good produce for about $10. I am not living in the bay area at the moment, but I doubt Monterey Market has changed that much.